Fantastic Fest Review: Don’t Kill It
Of all the films that open with multiple family massacres, “Don’t Kill It” is the funniest of the bunch. The new film from Mike Mendez (“Big Ass Spider!”) deftly blends humor and action to create a wickedly entertaining ride destined to become a cult classic.
At the of 58, Dolph Lundgren kicks more ass and masterfully delivers zingers better than actors half his age. The Swedish native plays the epically named Jebediah Woodley, a demon hunter who lives in his car and has seen some serious shit in his time. When a string of disturbing and violent killings in a small Mississippi town grab the attention of FBI Agent Evelyn Pierce, Woodley offers his services, claiming he’s dealt with the culprit before.
The premise of “Don’t Kill It” (a demon possesses the body of the person who killed it last, making it impossibly difficult to destroy) allows for some cool and exciting story choices. Mendez stages some deliciously violent sequences, each more insane and bloody than the last. There’s one particular sequence set during a town hall meeting that every movie lover owes it to themselves to experience at least once. It’s reminiscent of the church sequence in Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman” film from last year, except that it actually works because we’re invested the characters, the story, and the universe the two inhabit.
Dolph Lundgren is this movie’s secret weapon and one of the reasons why the movie works as well as it does. Dressed in a one-of-a-kind trench coat, sporting a hat that could rival Indiana Jones’, and armed with an array of weapons designed to subdue instead of kill, Jebediah Woodley is an awesome character, and you can tell how much fun Lundgren (who gets a producing credit here) had playing him. Part of that fun is undoubtedly due to the Tarantino-level amount of dialogue screenwriters Dan Berk and Robert Olsen gave Dolph to work with. In one film, Lundgren delivers a monologue in a way that avoids making the material feel like obligatory backstory, expertly throws out one hilarious zinger after another, and even spouts out an epic lesson on consent to a lowlife in a bar. Even with all that work, he still finds time to kick some serious ass.
For the fun to be had, there are occasions where “Don’t Kill It” starts to show its cracks. Some of the scenes are a bit lacking, and there are some moments where the film’s low budget reveals itself. Some will understandably take issue with the fact that Kristina Klebe’s Agent Pierce is too one-dimensional, but stories of a deleted scene involving her character revealed during the post-screening Q&A suggest there’s still time to remedy that.
Regardless, Mike Mendez has produced an incredibly entertaining film that deserves to be seen with an audience. “Don’t Kill It” hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until literally its final shot. Lundgren has given us a character for the ages, one that I hope will return for more adventures.